The Green Diaper Dilemma: Cloth Diapers vs Disposable Diapers

How green (or sanitary) could it be to throw a big ole’ hunk of feces in your washing machine?

It’s true, there are many ways to live green that just don’t fit into daily life.

And that’s the #1 reason I hear why people don’t make any attempts to go green.

For some reason, there has been lots of convo about diapers in the green world recently.


So which is more green, disposable diapers or cloth ones? Could one (or both) of them even be toxic?


The Argument

The Cloth Side: says,

“To acquire the wood pulp used to produce disposable diapers, one billion trees world-wide are cut down per year, but what is done to that wood is even more detrimental to us and our world. The wood pulp is bleached with chlorine gas, producing toxic chemicals known as organochlorines. The most notorious of which is dioxin, and happens to be one of the most toxic substances ever made by humans. Dioxin is associated with birth defects, miscarriages, cancer, genetic damage — remember Agent Orange from the Vietnam War? One of the primary components of Agent Orange was dioxin. Organochlorines are found in large amounts in the waste water released from manufacturing plants into the environment. Employees in factories manufacturing super-absorbent diapers have reported fatigue, female-organ problems, slow-healing wounds and weight loss. There is even a trace amount of organochlorines in each disposable diaper. Many countries have banned the process of chlorine bleaching from the manufacture of disposable diapers, in favor of safer bleaching processes, such as hydrogen-peroxide bleaching.”


The Disposable Side:

Advocates of disposable diapers are, well, not involved in the green conversation… that’s for sure.

However, the main ingredient for reusable cloth diapers is cotton. Cotton is an extremely water intensive crop and is quite often treated with large amounts of pesticides and chemicals, and often bleached to make them nice and white.

One must also consider the impact of having to wash the cloth diapers before reuse.


My Questions

I, for one, wonder about the level of sanitation that results from putting soiled cloth diapers into the wash.

Would the toxins from that waste remain and contaminate future loads of clothing?


The Solution

For those of us, like myself, who feel that living green needs to be fun, simple, and fit into our daily lives, there is a solution to the diaper debate.

There is a new type of diaper to hit the market that consist of a colorful outer diaper that houses a disposable, flushable, biodegradable insert that can be changed.

Two such companies that are receiving rave reviews are:

Check out Sally Kalson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s review of gDiapers. also reviewed them here.


Would you consider using cloth diapers on your next (or 1st) child?

What about the new 7th Generation diapers or gDiapers?



Yo. I'm Jeffrey. I think every little step is an awesome one when it comes to living green... but eco-snobbery sucks.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:
TwitterFacebookGoogle Plus

Fun From Around the Web

  • Amanda

    With biodegradeable ,flushable liners you never throw hunks of feces into your wash. You simply flush it down the toilet and wash the diaper (poo free) in the laundry. I use both the cloth diaper all in ones and the hybrid gDiapers. I have the cloth inserts for the gDipes but I use the flushable inserts when i’m out and about. they are great and I never feel guilty about throwing them in the trash. They biodegrade in about 30 days. Especially if your out visiting and are working with a strange toilet. They are all good options. The only problem with the flushable inserts is that they are a bit more pricey than conventional diapers. The 7th generation diapers are mch less harmful to your baby, but they still use plastic and take up to 500 years to break down in a landfill, sooooo probably not the “greenest” option. There are 100% biodegradable toss out diapers from Delora and Attitude….both great but a little pricey!

  • Guillotmichelle

    I use unbleached indian cotton and find they work better for my children than disposables. As far a poop.. common sense tells you to dumb it in the toilet before you store it in your pail!!! My washer also has a santize wash cycle on it and I never use bleach, just line dry. I have never had a problem with diaper rash since using cloth and like everyone else your waste water is treated in the water treatment plant once it goes down the drain.. I much rather reuse cloth for all my children ( I have 5 children) than have all those disposables not breaking down in the landfills!!!